24 July 2016

Averaigne campaign - session 19

[The story so far]

Session 19 - On the barricades
Abandoning his crossbow for the time being, Tybalt the halfling snatched up an axe and raised it high to swing ineffectually at the Vespertine scrambling up the barricade towards him. All along the ridge of their barrier his new friends, newer comrades, and local watchmen were doing the same to repel the sudden attack. To his left, Jean was struggling to land a blow on his man, while to the right Montagne was a veritable one-man army! Humming tunelessly to himself, the huge fellow broke limbs, stove in ribcages and pulped the heads of any foolish enough to step within range of the heavy and cruelly pointed morningstar that he swung so casually.

Distracted momentarily by the carnage alongside him, Tybalt hadn't noticed the Vespertine swap his sword for a spear. At least not until that spear was thrust deep into his inner thigh. Haemorrhaging violently, the halfling fell back senseless from his vantage point into a rapidly spreading pool of his own blood...

There was no-one to catch him as the fighting was at its fiercest. Dumnorix, still shaken by his feeling of separation from Alathea after the incident in the cellar of the Gryphon, had been almost bodily hauled into place by Oiseau, a man who knew all too well what it was like to have a crisis of faith. Together, the clerics were putting heart into the other defenders as they fended off the false Vespertines, suffering wounds themselves but slaying or driving off more of the foe. The barricade held.

At his end of the barrier, Montagne was swept up in the exhilaration of fighting for a cause far more noble than his ex-master's profit and discovering that the morningstar was truly his weapon. Flinging the lifeless corpse of yet another Vespertine down among his fellows, Montagne could hold back no more and jumped down beyond the barricade onto the street to land nimbly among his foes. Three faced him; one was knocked from his feet by a buffet from Montagne's shield, the second misjudged his attack and the morningstar caught him in the jaw, spraying half his face over the third who turned and fled. At the same moment, a blast of cerulean energy leapt from a side street, bifurcating as it did so and enveloping four of the solders - Aurelius had snuck round through a sidestreet to flank the attackers. He was spotted, however, and three Vespertines gave noisy chase. Their running, combined with the magic and Montagne was too much for the rest, and triggered a general retreat among the attackers who ran a hundred yards or so down the road before slowing to a halt and regathering. Great was the derisory cheer from the defenders.

Dumnorix limped over to the little knot of student mages and dragged one of them over to where Tybalt lay. "Heal him! Do it. Now!" It was only after the diminutive rogue had been magically brought back from the brink of death (for the second time that day!) that he sought, and received, healing for himself.

Meanwhile, Aurelius was scampering through the alleyways of Northern Corcelle with a trio of enraged guards close behind him, his wizard robes billowing out and the leather soles of his boots slapping noisily against the cobbles in the quiet away from the conflict.

Back at the barricade, Oiseau had a plan. "We'll never win this if we just sit here for attack after attack. These are just hirelings, but at least one of them has magic and the people or things behind this must be truly dangerous. If we could take out their leader on their leader on the street, we might make the rest run and then we can plan what to do about the temple." With the agreement of the others, the cleric of the sword saint recoated his blade in oil and lit it, gazing into the flame and opening his mind in supplication "Hear me Nikitas and point me towards the leader of the false Vespertines on the street before us..." [Oiseau's player deciding how to word this request while I simply grinned wolfishly was highly entertaining]. His god responded and Oiseau's blade seemed to gain a life of its own and lift up, drawing the cleric after it. "Follow me!" he called - and they did!

All the party (except Aurelius who was running for his life, and Tybalt who was taking a shooting position atop the Gryphon) formed up around him as he advanced on the Vespertines, the student wizards and about a score of watchmen came too. Dumnorix saw they were still outnumbered, however, and that guile would be needed; he gathered half a dozen watchmen and snuck off down an alleyway, keeping pace with the main group on a parallel street. As Oiseau and the main group drew nearer to the Vespertines he still couldn't make out which of them in the central knot that the blade was pointing at. It was enough. "Ready?" he muttered. The students were, and so were Jean, Dumnorix and the watchmen. "After three then. One... two... three... NOW!" A hail of "Black Jacques' Specials" flared through the darkness and exploded all over the unsuspecting Vespertines
with devastating effect! [Seriously, after most of them had been making less than mediocre rolls all session, suddenly out came the 18s, 19s and 20s. It was uncanny, and the hoots of savage glee told me all I needed to know about their engagement - they were on that street together and could see the flames, feel the heat, and hear the whoosh of exploding lamp oil. Awesome!]

Three, four, maybe five Vespertines went up in flames, dropping and rolling on the cobbles or blundering into their comrades, and in charged the warriors. But before they reached them, the final blazing bottle thrown by Jean hit a Vespertine who practically exploded. He'd been preparing a spell of some kind and the distraction of being hit by half a pint of erupting oil fatally interrupted his concentration; a towering sheet of green flame shot twenty feet into the air, the dark shadow at its centre stretching out from man-shaped into a sooty streak twice as tall and half as wide before vanishing utterly, tendrils of flame striking out around him and consuming the four men closest. This was too much and already demoralised Vespertines turned tail and fled. The students burned down a handful from behind with their own magic before Montagne was among them wreaking further carnage. Then Dumnorix and his men hit them from the side, carving into the survivors. Barely a handful escaped, scattering into the darkness, abandoning their weapons and shields as they fled.

As they looked to their own casualties (a couple of watchmen and one of the student mages who had catastrophically miscast a magic missile), Dumnorix noticed that one of the fallen Vespertines still lived. He stepped closer and looked down at the injured man. "Can you tell me where your master is?" He shook his head, gasping with his injuries, the all-too familiar black marks of the silencing charm writhing round his throat. Dumnorix felt pity move him and crouched next to his injured foe. "I cannot heal you, but I can put you out of your misery. Should I?" At the signal of a weak nod, Dumnorix stood, spoke a blessing from Alathea (which felt empty words - the usual feeling of certainty and closeness to his goddess was on blessing someone was coldly absent), and brought his polehammer down sharply to release the wretch from his torment. He knew he'd done the right thing, but the cleric had never felt so alone.

Aurelius blundered out of an alleyway right into Dumnorix who was standing lost in thought. "Hello everyone, you coped without me, then?" The wizard was slightly manic and out of breath after his unaccustomed exercise. He'd only escaped after a stroke of good fortune - he'd thrown a lit oil bottle over his shoulder and it had hit one of his pursuers straight in the chest, causing the others to back off enough that he'd been able to lose them in the sidestreets and head back towards the main street and the sounds of fighting.

He wasn't the only one to step out of the shadows. Tybalt had been trying to keep pace with them along the rooftops as they'd headed towarss the Tempe, but a couple of wide gaps that had required the use of a grappling line to cross had slowed him down. Nevertheless, the gang were all back together again and ready to make the final push towards the Temple. Hopefully the Vespertines and whoever was controlling those of them that still lived would be frantically trying to bring their plans forward (the "eighth day" of the Spring festival was still two days away), and this would put them at more of a disadvantage than the party who had been pushed into action by the charm-breaking back in the Gryphon's cellar.

Only one way to find out. To the temple!

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